Trial to Start in Deputy Slayings

Roberts in court, November, 2002.
Roberts in court, November, 2002.

Two Beaufort County sheriff's deputies were gunned down in the line of duty nearly two years ago. Now the suspected killer, 40-year-old Tyree Roberts, will soon go to trial. Roberts is accused of killing Lance Corporal Dana Tate and Corporal AJ Coursen in January of 2002. The two deputies were responding to a domestic dispute at a home in Burton when they were shot. After a brief gun battle with police, Roberts was arrested. He's facing the death penalty.

His wife, Monica de Jesus, is also being charged as an accessory to the murders after the fact.

By this time next week, that murder trial will be underway in the Low Country. On the docket yesterday were some fairly routine pretrial hearings. They turned out anything but routine. When everyone arrived in court Wednesday, most expected to hear a couple motions ramping up into the main trial, which is set to start Monday, but Tyree Roberts turned it into a marathon affair that caught most people off guard. Things didn't wrap up until after 5pm, and the hearing still isn't over. It's continuing on Friday.

"Today was a hearing to determine a bunch of motions that he had filed and never served upon me, and the judge has heard those," explained Randolph Murdaugh III, the solicitor in the case.

Among the motions was a request to have the case dismissed because Roberts feels his fourth amendment rights were violated by Coursen and Tate. Murdaugh countered by saying even if Roberts' rights were violated, it didn't give anyone the right to shoot the deputies. The judge has not ruled on those requests yet.

Even with these last-minute motions, the solicitor says he's ready for the actual trial to start. "We will start the jury selection Monday morning, I assume," Murdaugh told us. "When we qualify enough jurors, we sill strike the jury and start the trial, and I am prepared to do that at any time."

Tyree Roberts is representing himself for the trial, and declined talking to counsel when the judge suggested he do so yesterday. The trial should start soon after Monday's jury selection.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite,